Linebacker Shilique Calhoun
Making it to the NFL is a huge accomplishment in and of itself. Players have overcome adversity, and worked a majority of their young life trying to reach the professional level. From Pop Warner football as a kid, to high school, and college, the work remains constant and necessary to achieve the ultimate goal.
For rookie linebacker Shilique Calhoun, his dream became a reality during the 2016 NFL draft when the Oakland Raiders selected him in the third round (75th overall).
"Just to play in any game I'm excited to be a part of [it]," said Calhoun. "This organization as well, it's amazing to have the opportunity."
Since joining the Raiders, he has made the most of his opportunity by putting in the extra work day-in and day-out, regardless of if it's before or after practice. Being an NFL player is a demanding job, and requires a tireless amount of dedication and commitment, but Calhoun is motivated to go the additional mile. Calhoun is fueled by his personal desire to continue getting better, and isn't content with settling for less.
He remains focused on what he needs to do personally and the amount of effort he's showed has caught the attention of his defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.
"Shilique is long. He's fast. He cares a lot about what he does. He stays after, getting extra coaching," said Norton. "He certainly goes out on the practice fields and tries to work on his technique."
After hearing his coordinator's comments, Calhoun stated that although it's great to hear praise from his defensive coordinator, he's merely working hard just to help his team win.
"For me the work has to get better regardless of if he's watching or not," he said. "The good thing about it is he sees me out there, he sees me trying to put in the work. On those occasions I may fail in certain areas he can understand and say, 'he is trying and doing whatever he can to succeed.'"
Aside from the physical work, Calhoun is trying to improve in other areas by connecting with his teammates, specifically linebacker Bruce Irvin and defensive end Khalil Mack. Both players are dominant at their positions, and can enlighten the rookie with advice that will benefit him in the big picture.
"He's right up there, right under their shoulders; talking to them, learning games, learning how to rush the passer, learning how to play at a certain level, conditioning out here early before practice, running," said Norton. "Those types of things that young players need to do to develop."
The dedication and care that the rookie has showed thus far has earned him increased playing time through the first three weeks of the 2016 season. Last week against the Tennessee Titans, Calhoun played 30 defensive snaps, accounting for 44 percent of the defensive total. Prior to the Week 3 outing, he had only played nine snaps against the Atlanta Falcons and 11 snaps against the New Orleans Saints.
This week the Raiders will take on the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, located not too far away from Calhoun's hometown in New Jersey. The matchup in Baltimore will be the closest he comes to being home and should be a special game for him with most of his family making the journey to watch him play.
"Being able to be play close to home will be great because my family can come and see me," said Calhoun. "It should be pretty special for me."
Heading into the matchup Calhoun is focused on pressuring quarterback Joe Flacco, and using his eyes to track what the offense gives. His physique and play style allow him to be aggressive in hand combat, so he can be disruptive off the defensive line.
After seeing increased snaps over the course of three games, Calhoun should continue to see more playing time on the field frequently. The rookie will continue to work on his game going forward and do what's necessary to grow as a player.
"For me, all I can be is Shilique Calhoun."